Environment

Are Florida’s national parks open during the government shutdown? It’s complicated.

A ranger gives a guided tour in Everglades National Park in this 2012 file photo.
A ranger gives a guided tour in Everglades National Park in this 2012 file photo. Miami Herald File

The government may be shut down, but that doesn’t mean you’re totally locked out of one of South Florida’s greatest amenities: its national parks.

Many of the parks, like Everglades National Park, including Shark Valley and Long Pine Key, will be accessible. But they will largely feel like ghost towns without staff. And if your bladder fills during the day, you might regret your visit since many restrooms will be closed, along with the visitors centers.

Everglades National Park, for instance, faces a major impact as the government shutdown means there will be no staffing at its entrance. The National Park Service notes that its marine waters will remain publicly accessible but urges people to use extreme caution if heading out.

“Due to the lapse in federal appropriations, the National Park Service is unable to fully staff the properties under its management,” the service said in a release Saturday morning. “It is not feasible to close or otherwise prohibit all access to National Park Service properties.”

But park visitors are advised to use extreme caution if choosing to enter National Park Service property because personnel will not be available to provide guidance, assistance, maintenance or emergency response. “Any entry onto NPS property during this period of federal government shutdown is at the visitor’s sole risk,” the service said.

Here’s what is open and closed and accessible currently in Everglades National Park, Biscayne National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve under this government shutdown. This information is subject to change.

Everglades National Park

▪ Marine waters are publicly accessible, but extreme caution is advised.

▪ Key Largo access is closed.

▪ Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center & Public Restrooms are closed.

▪ Main Park Road is accessible, and the Park Entrance Station will not be staffed during the shutdown.

▪ Homestead Trolley is closed.

▪ Royal Palm and its Anhinga Trail are accessible. The Royal Palm Gift Shop will operate as usual, and its restrooms are open because they are maintained by a partner association.

Nike Missile Base sign
File photo from Jan. 24, 2011, shows the front gate area of the HM-69 Nike Missile Base, located inside Everglades National Park. As part of the federal government shutdown, the missile base is closed. ALLISON DIAZ Miami Herald File

▪ Nike Missile Base is closed.

▪ Dan Beard and Bill Robertson centers are closed.

▪ Long Pine Key’s day use area is accessible, but the restrooms and campgrounds are closed.

▪ West Lake is accessible, but the restrooms are closed.

▪ Flamingo’s general area and boat launches are accessible. The campground, visitor center, restrooms and fish cleaning station are closed. Back-country camping is open on a first come, first serve basis but permits will not be issued.

▪ Coopertown Airboats will operate as usual.

▪ Gator Park will operate as usual.

▪ Everglades Safari Park will operate as usual.

▪ Shark Valley’s tram tours and bicycle rentals will operate as usual. The parking lot will be accessible, but the visitor center and bookstore will be closed.

shark valley bike
Tourists from Texas ride bicycles in Shark Valley Park on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017, after the park opened following Hurricane Irma damage. Roberto Koltun rkoltun@miamiherald.com

▪ Gulf Coast’s Everglades National Park Boat Tours will operate as usual, and back-country camping will be open but on a first come, first serve basis and permits will not be issued. The visitor station and bookstore will be closed.

▪ Commercial Use Authorizations, including fishing, birding and other guide services, will operate as usual. No special use permits will be issued, and uses requiring oversight and monitoring are ceased during the shutdown.

▪ Environmental Education Centers, Hidden Lake and Loop road are closed.

Biscayne National Park

▪ Marine waters are publicly accessible, but extreme caution is advised.

▪ Dante Fascell Visitor Center is closed.

▪ Biscayne National Park Institute is open.

▪ Boca Chita, Elliott Key and Adams Key are accessible but with no visitor services or restrooms.

Dry Tortugas National Park

▪ Marine waters are publicly accessible, but extreme caution is advised.

Everglades Nat Park bass
Quinn Donnely, from Key Largo, holds a large mouth bass he caught fishing with Capt. Vinny on Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 2017, on ultra light tackle from a canoe on a pond deep within the Everglades National Park. Capt. Donald Deputy

▪ Garden Key and Fort Jefferson are publicly accessible.

▪ Fort Jefferson Bookstore will operate as usual.

▪ Yankee Freedom Boat Tours will operate as usual.

▪ Key West Seaplane Adventures will operate as usual.

▪ Garden Key Campground is closed, but campers will not be asked to leave.

▪ Mooring balls are available on a first come, first serve basis.

▪ Special use permits won’t be issued and uses requiring oversight and monitoring are ceased.

Big Cypress National Preserve

▪ Preserve Headquarters is closed.

▪ Oasis Visitor Center is closed.

▪ Swamp Welcome Center is closed.

▪ Campgrounds including Bear Island, Burn’s Lake, Gator Head, Midway, Monument Lake, Mitchell’s Landing, Pinecrest Group Camping and Pink Jeep are closed.

▪ Special use permits won’t be issued and uses requiring oversight and monitoring are ceased.

▪ Landowner access and vault toilets are accessible.

▪ Recreational ORV access will remain unchanged.

▪ Hunting season will remain in progress, except in designated closed areas.

▪ Loop Road, Turner River Road, Wagonwheel and Birdon Roads are accessible.

▪ H.P. Williams, Kirby Storter Boardwalk, the Swamp Welcome Center boardwalk, Fire Prairie Trail and Gator Hook are accessible.

▪ Turner River Canoe Launch and Halfway Creek are accessible but caution is advised.

▪ The National Park Service shutdown contingency plan is available at www.doi.gov/shutdown.

▪ Live feed from the Anhinga Trail Webcam in Everglades National Park remains available 24/7.

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